David Dishneau of the AP on what one woman would do:
Chicago billing clerk Stephany Harris, 53, didn’t miss a beat.
"Of course I would," she said. "If the armored car had been in an accident of something, I’d make sure the drivers were OK and I’d call 911. But I’d put as much money in my pockets (as I could) and run."
But what if her kids were there? “I absolutely would not take any money,” she answered again without hesitation. “I wouldn’t want them to get the message that grabbing money that is not yours is the right thing to do.”
Well at least she’s honest (note that this is not in any way a consolation).
"The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks — two key Democratic constituencies," another memo states. "Find, equip, energize and connect African-American spokespeople for marriage; develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots. No politician wants to take up and push an issue that splits the base of the party."
You assholes. Man up and be your own bigots instead of making other people bigots by proxy.
Modern Mechanix time, this time from the May 1929 issue of Modern Mechanics:
The latest evidence of the unsocial nature of the Martians came recently when Dr. H. Mansfield Robinson, shown in the picture at the left, attempted to send a message to a woman on Mars who, he reported, had been in communication with him. Although listeners all over the world were on the alert for her response, it failed to come through.
Steve Martin, writing in The New Yorker earlier this year:
As boys in the little community of Flint Hill, near Shelby, North Carolina, Earl and his brother Horace would take their banjo and guitar and start playing on the porch, then split up and meet behind the house. Their goal was to still be on the beat when they rejoined at the back. Momentously, when he was ten years old, after a fight with his brother, he was playing his banjo to calm his mind. He was practicing the standard “Reuben” when found he could incorporate his third finger into the picking of his right hand, instead of his usual two, in an unbroken, rolling, staccato. He ran back to his brother, shouting, “I’ve got it, I’ve got it!” He was on the way to creating an entirely new way of playing the banjo: Scruggs Style.
Great profile of Scruggs, who was probably the best there ever was, and maybe the best that ever will be. (Also, if you click through there’s a recording of “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” to listen to.)
A church pastor in Pennsylvania could face felony charges for staging a fake kidnapping of youth group students in order to teach them about religious persecution.
Teenagers at the Glad Tidings Assembly of God Church in Middletown, Pa., were surprised when they attended a youth group meeting at the church on March 21 and were ambushed by what seemed to be real kidnappers.
I don’t have any words for this that aren’t vulgar.
This is not to be missed. DJ Premier is on the turntables (and acting as hype man), and AZ and Pete Rock both show up. Seriously, this is really, really great stuff.
(Probably my favorite part is that Premier is wearing an Illmatic T-shirt. That’s a level so completely beyond “wearing the band’s T-shirt to their show” that I don’t even know if it’s cool or not. Which makes it very cool.)
What if scenes from our lives were critiqued by reviewers?
Here’s a short piece by John Warner, editor of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, that ran in Book magazine in 2002. It’s also featured in expanded form in Warner’s book Fondling Your Muse, which I recommend if only just for the best burn of Tom Clancy ever committed to paper.
Fantastic profile in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Tom Bartlett of the “war of words” (I’m so sorry) that has erupted between Daniel Everett and Noam Chomsky on whether Everett has debunked Chomsky’s ill-defined “Universal Grammar”. The whole piece is fantastic, but this was my favorite bit, from later on in the article.
Everett is far from the only current Chomsky challenger. Recently there’s been a rise in so-called corpus linguistics, a data-driven method of evaluating a language, using computer software to analyze sentences and phrases. The method produces detailed information and, for scholars like Gibson, finally provides scientific rigor for a field he believes has been mired in never-ending theoretical disputes. That, along with the brain-scanning technology that linguists are increasingly making use of, may be able to help resolve questions about how much of the structure of language is innate and how much is shaped by culture.
But Chomsky has little use for that method. In his lecture, he deemed corpus linguistics nonscientific, comparing it to doing physics by describing the swirl of leaves on a windy day rather than performing experiments. This was “just statistical modeling,” he said, evidence of a “kind of pathology in the cognitive sciences.” Referring to brain scans, Chomsky joked that the only way to get a grant was to propose an fMRI.
The hypocrisy of Chomsky in the above and below is frankly hilarious:
Another Chomsky nugget is the way he responds when asked to give a definition of Universal Grammar. He will sometimes say that Universal Grammar is whatever made it possible for his granddaughter to learn to talk but left the world’s supply of kittens and rocks speechless—a less-than-precise answer.
PBS NewsHour had a nice segment yesterday a few days ago with journalist Ahmed Rashid on the complex relationship between the U.S., Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Taliban. This is how the interviewer Ray Suarez introduced what I found to be the most interesting tidbit:
In the book, you take us deep inside those negotiations begun quite clandestinely in Germany with go-betweens, safe passage for Taliban fighters to get from Central Asia to Western Europe. But then they’re scotched by Pakistan, Pakistan working at cross-purposes to the United States and Afghanistan.
Apparently in 2005 Crooked Timber held an online seminar discussing the book — the content in the seminar seems honest to me. But somewhere along the lines, something went wrong, and Farrell now regrets it:
But even if it seemed a good idea at the time, I should have known better. Yes – Levitt is an interesting and original economist, but the glib contrarianism and breezy confidence that silly econometric results would tell us something valuable about the world were baked into the cake from the beginning of the Freakonomics project, and perhaps before. D-squared’s perhaps never-to-be-published CT summation of his various posts on Freakonomics makes that clear. It’s a bit like one of those high-end fashion marques that begins with haute couture, and ends up over-extending its brand by using it on everything from cheap plastic novelties to toilet paper.
The whole thing is worth reading, including the comments. In particular, don’t miss the hilarious/brutal 1st paragraph and this witty riposte from “Daniel” in the comments.
Daniella Cheslow writing for the AP about a new Israeli law that regulates the thinness of models in advertisements:
The new law requires models to produce a medical report no older than three months at every shoot for the Israeli market, stating that they are not malnourished by World Health Organization standards.
The U.N. agency relies on the body mass index, calculated by factors of weight and height. WHO says a body mass index below 18.5 indicates malnutrition. According to that standard, a woman 1.72 meters tall (5-feet-8) should weigh no less than 119 pounds (54 kilograms).
But be sure to read the whole article, it has a lot of background about just how damaging this is to young girls and young models.
Drunken soldiers looted Mali’s presidential palace hours after they declared a coup on Thursday, suspending the constitution and dissolving the institutions of one of the few established democracies in this troubled corner of Africa.
Mali adopted a democratic constitution in August of 1991. The coup that lead to that constitution happened on March 26, almost twenty-one years ago exactly.
Letters of Note here with a description by Helen Keller of her experience at the top of the Empire State Building.
What did I “see and hear” from the Empire Tower? As I stood there ‘twixt earth and sky, I saw a romantic structure wrought by human brains and hands that is to the burning eye of the sun a rival luminary. I saw it stand erect and serene in the midst of storm and the tumult of elemental commotion. I heard the hammer of Thor ring when the shaft began to rise upward. I saw the unconquerable steel, the flash of testing flames, the sword-like rivets. I heard the steam drills in pandemonium. I saw countless skilled workers welding together that mighty symmetry. I looked upon the marvel of frail, yet indomitable hands that lifted the tower to its dominating height.
Let cynics and supersensitive souls say what they will about American materialism and machine civilization. Beneath the surface are poetry, mysticism and inspiration that the Empire Building somehow symbolizes. In that giant shaft I see a groping toward beauty and spiritual vision. I am one of those who see and yet believe.
The agency on Wednesday announced that is beginning work on a “janitor satellite” that will begin to clean up Earth’s orbit by latching onto a piece of space debris traveling at 17,400 miles per-hour and dragging it back into Earth’s atmosphere on a suicide mission, causing both the janitor satellite and the piece of junk to burn up.
Franzen also describes just how real the problem of space junk is. (Spoiler: very serious.)
Fantastic interview with John Norquist in Next American City about how freeways hurt cities and what can be done to improve the situation. I’ve been saying this same stuff for years. Probably my favorite bit, naturally about San Francisco:
A robust street grid, with lots of connections, will distribute traffic much better than a few large freeways. […] For example, when the Embarcadero Freeway, a double-deck freeway, was torn down, a majority of the trips—according to a study by the city of San Francisco—got shorter and faster because of the increased connectivity. With the freeway, there were a lot of trips where you overshot your destination and had to come back. It also attracted trips that didn’t add any value to the neighborhood: People going from Oakland to Marin County were cutting through San Francisco. When the freeway was torn down and replaced by a boulevard, it suddenly didn’t look so attractive to go that way, and [drivers] found a different way to get to Marin Country or, in some cases, didn’t make the trip.
In two new papers, Nobel Prize–winning physicist Frank Wilczek lays out the mathematics of how an object moving in its lowest energy state could experience a sort of structure in time. Such a “time crystal” would be the temporal equivalent of an everyday crystal, in which atoms occupy positions that repeat periodically in space.
MOTHERFUCKING TIME CRYSTALS WHAT. Even Witze admits the name sounds “like the title of a bad fantasy movie”.
Despite a century of research, memory encoding in the brain has remained mysterious. Neuronal synaptic connection strengths are involved, but synaptic components are short-lived while memories last lifetimes. This suggests synaptic information is encoded and hard-wired at a deeper, finer-grained molecular scale.
In an article in the March 8 issue of the journal PLoS Computational Biology, physicists Travis Craddock and Jack Tuszynski of the University of Alberta, and anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff of the University of Arizona demonstrate a plausible mechanism for encoding synaptic memory in microtubules, major components of the structural cytoskeleton within neurons.
I had the opportunity to see Dr. Hameroff speak at Google in 2007 — you can view a video of that talk here. He’s an interesting fellow with a lot of very interesting ideas — some of which are (as far as I can tell as a layman) somewhat outside the mainstream.
What I’m saying is: check this out, but take it with a grain of salt.
However, two years later, when Seuss was challenged by political columnist Art Buchwald for never having written a political book, Seuss took a copy of the book and crossed out “Marvin K. Mooney” and wrote in “Richard M. Nixon.” Buchwald was so delighted that with Seuss’s consent he printed the text as his column for July 30, 1974. Nixon resigned ten days later on August 9th.
It’s a talking point so overused it’s almost a trope by this point. “How will I explain this to my children?” Obviously that’s a question parents have to answer for themselves. Unless they don’t explain anything and let the children work things out for themselves. What would that look like? It might look a little something like this classic video, where a young boy named Calen meets his first gay couple — without knowing what “gay” could be.
Fruit flies apparently self-medicate just like many humans do, drowning their sorrows or frustrations for some of the same reasons, scientists reported Thursday. Male flies subjected to what amounted to a long tease — in a glass tube, not a dance club — preferred food spiked with alcohol far more than male flies that were able to mate.
The study, posted online in the journal Science, suggests that some elements of the brain’s reward system have changed very little during evolution, and these include some of the mechanisms that support addiction. Levels of a brain chemical that is active in regulating appetite predicted the flies’ thirst for alcohol. A similar chemical is linked to drinking in humans.
What’s really cool is that they think this could help them develop treatments to help people with alcohol and other substance abuse problems. Science!
“Look. I’m not going to say that I didn’t take a few shortcuts in my passion to be heard. But I stand behind the work,” Daisey said. “My mistake, the mistake I truly regret, is that I had it on your show as journalism. And it’s not journalism. It’s theater.”
I don’t buy it. As Dan Frakes says, the fact that he lied to TAL about this makes no sense — why not just adjust the monologue for radio? Or only broadcast an accurate portion? Or at least make the producers aware that he hyped it up.
The problem though, is that he couldn’t do any of that. Jason Snell:
I agree with Daisey that his art is to make a point about truth, not report facts. But his show was structured around assumed reportage.
That’s it exactly. His stage show, which you can read a transcript of here, is structured around the idea that he went to China, saw all this stuff, and gosh what does that say about globalization and corporations and aren’t we basically just Eloi? If he had to adjust his work to report accurately about what he saw, or reframe portions in the second-hand, all the drama would be lost: he would not longer be entering the Morlock tunnels and exposing the future’s degeneracy.
All that aside, good on Ira Glass and TAL for coming forward right away and admitting their part in this. Like Patton Oswalt says:
Man, Ira Glass’ dream journal is about to get a fucking workout.
So here’s the latest thing really rustling my jimmies, courtesy of Scott McCartney of The Wall Street Journal:
The Transportation Security Administration is rolling out expedited screening at big airports called “Precheck.” It has special lanes for background-checked travelers, who can keep their shoes, belt and jacket on, leave laptops and liquids in carry-on bags and walk through a metal detector rather than a full-body scan. The process, now at two airlines and nine airports, is much like how screenings worked before the Sept. 11 attacks.
"It’s a completely different experience than what you’re used to," said Matt Stegmeir, a platinum-level Delta Air Lines Inc. frequent flier who was invited into Precheck when it opened at his home airport, Minneapolis-St. Paul.
WE USED TO BE USED TO THIS
THEN SOME REALLY STUPID SHIT HAPPENED TO AIR TRAVEL IN THIS COUNTRY
To qualify, frequent fliers must meet undisclosed TSA criteria and get invited in by the airlines. There is also a backdoor in. Approved travelers who are in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s “Global Entry” program can transfer into Precheck using their Global Entry number.
Enrolling requires a $100 application fee for a background check, plus a brief interview with a Customs officer.
So I guess we’ve quantified the value of being treated like a human being as $100 and a background check.
Regrettably, we have discovered that one of our most popular episodes was partially fabricated. This week, we devote the entire hour to detailing the errors in “Mr. Daisey Goes to the Apple Factory,” Mike Daisey’s story about visiting Foxconn, an Apple supplier factory in China.
The episode itself isn’t available yet, but it should be available this evening. However the summary alone is pretty upsetting. Update: Andy Baio has a cached copy of TAL's textual retraction, which contains some of the details on the fabrications at hand.
Recall that Daisey is also the author of a one-man play The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, also based on his “experiences” in China.
Something about Daisey’s work and attitude on this topic never really sat right with me — I could never quite put it into words, and honestly just dismissed it as fanboyism on my part. However, recall that the concurrent Foxconn suicides imbroglio was also quite a bit less shocking than it was at first brush.
In the Deep South, one of the most conservative regions of the country, Romney and his Republican rivals polished their credentials with attacks on President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy and the nation’s use of energy. “The dangers of carbon dioxide? Tell that to a plant, how dangerous carbon dioxide is,” said Rick Santorum.
See, it’s funny because Rick Santorum has no idea what ecology or biology is.
The dangers of cyanide? Tell that to a plant, how dangerous cyanide is.
The re-arrest of Rebekah Brooks this morning suggests little official let-up in a British tabloid phone-hacking scandal that captured the world’s attention last July and threatens to drag Prime Minister David Cameron into questions about his ties to Ms. Brooks and other journalists.
Yes, that’s right. Re-arrest. Really good run-down of the whole case from the CSM. (Just too bad it’s on two pages.)
Don Fleming, Elvis Costello, and Emmylou Harris stopped by The Colbert Report last week to talk about Alan Lomax and American folk music. The three and Colbert also performed “Good Old Mountain Dew" and "Goodnight, Irene.” Highly recommended.
Facebook’s automatic efforts to connect users through “friends” they may know recently led two Washington women to find out they were married to the same man, at the same time. That led to the man, corrections officer Alan L. O’Neill, being slapped with bigamy charges.
According to charging documents filed Thursday, O’Neill married a woman in 2001, moved out in 2009, changed his name and remarried without divorcing her. The first wife first noticed O’Neill had moved on to another woman when Facebook suggested the friendship connection to wife No. 2 under the “People You May Know” feature.
"Wife No. 1 went to wife No. 2’s page and saw a picture of her and her husband with a wedding cake," Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist told The Associated Press.
Wife No. 1 then called the defendant’s mother.
There’s a lot more to the story, but I’m ending the quote at this point because this is how it ran in yesterday’s paper. I’m not sure why the editors chose to cut it off at that exact point, but it was a hilarious place to do so.
Animal welfare groups reacted with outrage Wednesday after the Iowa Legislature made the state the first to approve a bill making it a crime to surreptitiously get into a farming operation to record video of animal abuse. … The Iowa measure would establish a new penalty for lying on a job application to get access to a farm facility, making it a serious misdemeanor. A second conviction would be an aggravated misdemeanor.
Sen. Joe Seng, a Davenport Democrat and veterinarian who sponsored the bill, said the measure strikes a balance by discouraging animal activists from sneaking into livestock facilities but not prohibiting someone who legitimately works there from reporting animal abuse. … He said the livestock industry has legitimate concerns about unauthorized people infiltrating their facilities because they could track in disease or let mice or other unwanted vermin into farm buildings.
These kinds of exposés are generally how we find out about instances of horrific animal abuse, but on the other hand, it really is trespassing. Theoretically it should be possible for legitimate employees to report this kind of stuff too, but we’ll see how it goes.
Students and faculty at Harvard University are calling on the school to award posthumous degrees to seven students expelled nearly a century ago for being gay or perceived as gay, and they’re timing a rally for their cause to coincide with a visit by Lady Gaga.
But Harvard says it doesn’t award posthumous degrees, except in rare cases where students complete academic requirements but die before degrees have been conferred.
The university apologized a decade ago, after a student reporter found a file marked “secret court” in the university archives and wrote about the expulsions.
Wait, Harvard did what?
The group wants Harvard to formally abolish the secret court, a tribunal of administrators that investigated charges of homosexual activity among students at the Ivy League school in 1920. The tribunal remained a secret for decades and only became public in 2002 after the report in the Harvard Crimson magazine.
As part of our continuing coverage of bees, here’s a report from the Associated Press:
The Diamondbacks’ grounds crew used a combination of cotton candy and lemonade to help disperse a swarm of bees that delayed the San Francisco Giants split squad’s 11-1 win over Arizona for 41 minutes in the second inning Sunday.
With runners on second and third and one out in the second inning, a dark cloud appeared in right field, sending Diamondbacks center fielder Chris Young sprinting toward left.
"I didn’t see them at first I just heard them," Young said. "I am not afraid of one or two of them. I wouldn’t flinch at that. When you start talking about 500, 600 of them yea, I am afraid of that. …"